Apple snaps up company with expertise in GPS and self-driving cars

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TomTom will continue to power Apple Maps.
New acquisition could be a major part of Apple's future roadmap. No pun intended.
Photo: Apple

Apple has confirmed its acquisition of Coherent Navigation, a GPS company with expertise in mapping and self-driving vehicles.

Founded in 2008, Coherent Navigation is one of the leading companies behind what is known as High Integrity GPS or — appropriately enough for Apple — iGPS. Unlike regular GPS, which is accurate only within meters, iGPS’ high level of accuracy means it can provide geographic positioning data within centimeters.

Interestingly, the San Francisco Bay Area company also has experience working in autonomous navigation and robotics — opening up the possibility that they could be useful for the rumored Apple Car.

Of course, Apple’s not exactly being forthcoming with any of this information. In an emailed statement to The New York Times over the weekend, Apple issued the standard company line: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” Nor have terms of the sale been revealed.

Not much of this comes as a surprise. Ever since Apple Maps first stumbled out of the gate as a laughing stock, the company has focused on improving the service. It’s ironed out many of the glitches, begun updating Apple Maps every day and introduced features like Flyover, which gives users a 3-D view of major cities as they would look from the sky.

Apple has also acquired a number of different mapping companies and published a number of fascinating patents — such as one that would make its navigation software more humanlike by making references to landmarks and street signs instead of simply road names.

Earlier this year, mysterious Apple minivans were spotted roaming the roads in locations like California and Florida, which experts suggest are related to collecting data for maps.

Add all this up and mapping could turn out to be one area where Apple not only catches up with rivals like Google but actually overtakes them.